Georgia continues to break (pick one):
- various bones and ligaments.
- unspecified team rules.
- the law of averages.
Actually, all of the above are correct. But for the purposes of this argument, we'll focus on the law of averages that states that everything eventually evens out. The tenet -- as written in Athens -- states that season-ending injuries, suspensions, surfing on eBay, dalliances with The Chronic and an annual forced march to Jacksonville can only make you stronger.
|SportsLine.com Preseason Top 25|
|5. Florida State|
|10. Kansas State|
|12. Ohio State|
|13. West Virginia|
|20. Boise State|
|25. (tie) Missouri|
|25. (tie) Tennessee|
|Non-BCS Top 10|
|3. Boise State|
|7. Southern Miss|
|8. Fresno State|
|10. Miami (Ohio)|
Mark Richt's troops have faced/caused all this and more in the coach's three seasons. They remain not only standing but also thriving, 32-8, including an SEC title in his three seasons. So when the latest lightning bolt struck this week -- starting tailback Kregg Lumpkin was lost for the season -- it only strengthened the argument we've been trying to make all summer.
Georgia is No. 1.
Richt's Bulldogs have proved harder to knock down than Chuck Wepner.
The time has come to quit asking why and start asking why not? Even with the crushing loss of Lumpkin, Georgia is deeper at most positions than most teams. In David Greene, Richt, a noted quarterback guru, is coaching his first four-year starter. It was a top-5 defense that was bolstered by the return of two-time All-American defensive end David Pollack.
When one of the most serious questions is how to replace the kicker, well, something, somewhere has gone right.
"We've got experience," Greene said when asked the reasons why Georgia can win it all. "We've got good senior leadership. We have guys that have been three, four-year starters. Understand this is our last year and we want to get it done.
"Whether it happens or not, we don't know"
Ah, there's the rub. If Georgia does win it all, it will have to come from off the pace. The choice seems to be between USC and Oklahoma as everyone else's preseason No. 1. Despite the love from this corner of the universe, Georgia started out fourth in the coaches' poll (behind No. 3 LSU) and with the Associated Press media poll yet to weigh in.
Ohio State (preseason No. 13) did it in 2002. LSU started at No. 14 last year. If sandbagging is the key then the Bulldogs are doing a good job of lying in wait.
"Ya'll tell us that we're No. 1 in some of the polls," Pollack told reporters. "Ninety percent of the time ya'll are wrong. That's 90 percent of the weight lifted off right there."
|Kregg Lumpkin is out for the season with a torn ACL.(Getty Images)|
Two of Georgia's three losses last year were to co-national champion LSU. They are 24-4 in the past two seasons and 41-12 this century, one of the best records in the country during that period.
The Dawgs (11-3 last season) are so loaded again that they could actually lose to Florida (again) and still win the SEC East. That, of course, is more than a rub if the Dawgs expect to contend for a national championship. The Gators have won the last six meetings and 13 of the last 14.
"The Bulldog Club, that wasn't the first question the first couple of years," said Richt who is 0-3 against Florida. "Now it's, 'Hey, when are you going to beat Florida?' It's got to be psychological to a degree."
The real Athens Games are consecutive home weekends against LSU and Tennessee (Oct. 2, Oct. 9) that likely will define Georgia's season. Five of the first six home games will be played through mid-October. The program goes from Oct. 16 to Nov. 27 (42 days) between home games before finishing against Georgia Tech.
A good team should be able to handle all that. A year ago Richt was living through the embarrassment of nine players trying to sell their SEC championship rings on eBay. Four players were suspended for two games after a marijuana possession bust. There was the loss of defensive end Will Thompson and receiver Cedric Haywood to season-ending injuries.
Four other significant contributors, including backup quarterback D.J. Shockley, missed large chunks of time with injuries.
Already this year all-SEC linebacker Odell Thurman has been suspended for the first three games of the season. Starting linebacker Tony Taylor was lost for the season in the spring game. Lumpkin was running a pass route during a non-contact drill on Monday when he tore an ACL.
Given the black cloud hanging over this program, why should anyone have been surprised?
"Having that kind of experience will help us out, I think," Greene said.
There's really only one way to interpret all the misfortune: There are more reasons to like the Dawgs than not because there always seems to be more Dawgs to like.
- The return of Thompson will present a problem for defensive coordinators. Do you double-team Pollack or Thompson, or both? Someone, it seems, is always going to come free.
- Greene's "worst" season produced only 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year. He played the last 10 games with a hyper-extended knee suffered during the first LSU game. The change was dramatic. A streak of 176 consecutive passes ended. Ten of his 11 picks came in those last 10 games. A healthy Greene is back as a top-notch Heisman candidate ready to break most of the school's major passing records.
- Lumpkin's injury is at least a blessing for freshman Danny Ware, a talented prep school product who now will be given every opportunity to start. August will be interesting as he competes with returning leading rusher Michael Cooper.
- An inexperienced offensive line that gave up an SEC-high 47 sacks in 2003, now looks more like the 2002 bunch that included seven seniors. Or at least that's what Richt hopes.
"(Cohesiveness of the offensive line) is huge," he said. "If we can get the front five (going) and stay the same throughout the year, it's night and day."
Cohesiveness is not a familiar word these days in Athens. The unhappy totals to this point include three suspended players, two torn ACLs (Lumpkin and Taylor) to go along with SportsLine.com's No. 1 ranking.
In Georgia's world, that should make perfect sense.